Lucy Liu criticizes essay for calling her Kill Bill character an Asian stereotype


Lucy Liu defended her Kill Bill character against criticism that this is an Asian stereotype.

Liu played the role of yakuza leader O-Ren Ishii in the cult Quentin Tarantino film in 2003 Kill Bill: Book 1. The character was recently used in a Vogue teens article as a modern example of the Asian Hollywood Dragon Lady stereotype.

In an essay titled Hollywood played a role in the hypersexualization of Asian women, writer India Roby defines the Dragon Lady as someone who “uses her sexuality as a powerful tool for manipulation, but is often emotionally and sexually cold and threatens masculinity.”

Liu responded to the criticism in an op-ed for The Washington Post, where she argued that calling O-Ren a Dragon Lady doesn’t make sense given that the movie “stars three other professional slayers besides Ishii.”

“Why not call Uma Thurman, Vivica A Fox or Daryl Hannah a dragon lady?” I can only conclude that it is because they are not Asian, ”says Liu. “I could have worn a tuxedo and a blonde wig, but I still would have been called a Lady Dragon because of my ethnicity.”

“If I can’t play certain roles because mainstream Americans still see me as Other, and I don’t want to be played just in ‘quintessentially Asian’ roles because they reinforce stereotypes, I’m starting to feel the walls of the metaphorical box that we Women of AAPI (Asia American and Pacific Islanders) are replacing, ”she added.

Liu also commented on discrimination in the industry, saying she felt “lucky to have ‘moved the needle a bit” with some general success, “but added that there was” still a lot to be done ” .

“Hollywood often imagines a world more progressive than our reality; this is one of the reasons charlie’s angels was so important to me, ”she said of the 2000s film trilogy in which she starred alongside Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore.

“As part of something so iconic, my character Alex Munday normalized Asian identity for mainstream audiences and made a piece of Americana a little more inclusive.”

Liu added that categorizations of Asian Americans as “dragon ladies or delicate new iterations of domestic geishas” can be “not only compelling but also deadly.” She referred to the mass shooting in Atlanta, which took place in March at three Asian businesses in the city. Six of the eight victims were Asian women and four were of Korean descent.

Liu wrote that the gunman “targeted places where the staff are mostly Asian workers and said he wanted to eliminate a source of sexual temptation that he felt he could not control.” She added, “This distorted rationale both relies on and perpetuates the tropes of Asian women as sex objects.”

“This does not speak well of the chances of AAPIs to shatter the filters of preconceived stereotypes, let alone the possibility of overcoming the insidious and systemic racism that we face on a daily basis,” she concluded.

You can find a list of anti-Asian hate resources and organizations to support here.


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